Political and Economic Policies Effects in Haiti
People’s lives, cultures, economy, religions among other parameters are largely a direct result of forces that have been in operation for a long time in history. Haiti is one country in the world where we ascertain this truth that illustrates how other country interests can alter or even form a culture. Although this country is a thousand miles from Africa, the economic and political conditions in the country mirror those that are found in most African sub Saharan countries. This includes high levels of poverty, political dictatorship and instability, a low life expectancy among other conditions. All this factors have made Haitians to resemble African countries in a big way. Analyzing the history of this country, it can be described as a country that has been plagued by racial evils, natural disasters, betrayals and other evils like no other country in the world. This has been happening for a very long time considering that this is the second oldest independent country after the United States. In this paper, I will consider how economic and political policies of foreign countries have impacted this country leading it to the state that it is in today. (The history of Haiti)
To start with, I will briefly outline the history of Haiti. Before the Europeans came into this country, people of an Indian ancestry called the Arawak together with the Carib Indians occupied Haiti. These became extinct due to European brutality within less than 50 years after European arrival. In 1697, Spain, which had claimed ownership of the whole Island, ceded a third of land in the western side to France. The French established coffee sugar farming in the island and by the 1780s, this Island was the largest producer of coffee and sugar to the world. There was necessity to bring in African slaves to work in the plantations. These slaves were brought in hundreds of thousands and soon the slaves were 4 times more than free people in the island were. This gave rise to a stratified society with whites at the top, people of color-born by female slaves at the middle and slaves at the bottom. With time, there were an increased number of African slaves born in Haiti who were referred to as the creoles. (The history of Haiti)
Moreover, a good number of slaves escaped from the plantations to form their own communities and were referred to as the Maroons. The Maroons sometimes raided plantations and helped more slaves in plantations to escape. With time, Mulattos (people of color) and free Africans sought to have rights that would see them become full citizens and even own plantations and slaves. Overall, Haitians increasingly felt encouraged to fight for their wellbeing. After the revolution, the French government granted people of color some rights. However, White planters in the colonial assembly refused to comply with these new rules. This led to an outbreak of wars and revolts in the French colony. Britain and Spain were also involved in this conflict- they supported creoles against the French. Toussaint Louverture is mainly considered as the Haitian father. He was able to provide leadership and organization something that was previously lacking during the Haitian conflict. Louverture himself had spent part of his life working as a slave. He was educated and had learnt about Julius Caesar’s military campaigns. His life as a slave and education including military campaigns enhanced his abilities to provide leadership during the Haitian revolt. At first, he had joined with Spain to capture Saint-Dominique. This however changed when France abolished slavery compelling him to join forces with France in 1794. This saw him rise in ranks to become the chief commander of all Saint-Dominique republic forces. In this position, Louverture rose against France and took charge of the whole Island. (Republic of Haiti)
This victory was however short lived after France dispatched a new army to Haiti that took advantage of divisions among the Black fighters to establish colonial rule again. This did not last for long after the Black Creole rebelled against the French for a second time. The French were unable to resist this black force especially with an outbreak of diseases that killed large numbers of its army. Haiti was declared independent in 1803 under the leadership of Desailles. Following a coup and death of Desailles, the country was partitioned into two in the year 1811 before re-unification in 1820. In 1815, following political instability, the United States army intervened and established a permanent presence that lasted for almost twenty years until 1834 when the country gained independence the second time. The country has continuously been struggling against dictatorship, poor leadership including corruption ever since. (The history of Haiti)
Looking at the Haiti economy, it has dwindled drastically from what it was in the past. After the French had established their colony in this island, they established farming to a point where Haiti produced more than a third of all sugar that was consumed in the world and about 60 percent of all coffee that was consumed in the world. Many world powers at that time admired the island with envy. Today, the Haitian Economy is considered as the least developed in the whole of the western hemisphere. It is estimated that about 80 percent of the population in this country live below the poverty line. Moreover, the country has one of the highest inflation rates in the world. This country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in purchasing parity terms is about 1600 dollars and ranks at 193rd position in the whole world. (Dash)
Various factors have led to this kind of economy in Haiti. When this country gained Independence as an independent ‘black country’, the rest of the world that was mostly dominated by whites isolated it. France and the rest of other countries in the world at that time refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of Haiti. The country felt threatened that it could be re-colonized at any time. Meanwhile, the society remained stratified with mulattos owning a lot of properties while the rest of the society remained in poverty. It also became hard to continue with the robust farming economy since a framework of providing labor to plantations could not be established with the absence of slave labor. Moreover, marketing and sale of goods on the international market at that time were elusive with Haiti’s sovereignty at stake. (Haiti Sanctions)
We can therefore see that the country did not get a chance to integrate with the international economy something that would have allowed the country to gain from the international market and resources. This problem is even magnified by the fact that the country had just come from a period of war during the Haitian revolt for independence that caused destruction of the economic infrastructure. This country needed support from the France and other powers desperately at this time to rebuild its economy. This kind of support was however not forthcoming. Even to add to this problem, the country faced a problem of obtaining a new identity in the international community and knew well that its sovereignty was at risk. The problem of an unequal society was not addressed, the society was still stratified between a few wealthy-mostly Mulattos and a majority of blacks that were poor. A structure could not be developed where sufficient labor could be supplied to well manage plantations to continue with the production of sugar and coffee. This weakened the country’s capacity to develop a vibrant and strong economy. Disparity in people’s economic society is still evident in the Haitian society today. There has been a significant political instability in Haiti that can be said to run back to a few centuries ago. For example, just after Independence, the country split into two. This instability has never provided a proper atmosphere for the economy to flourish. Outside interference by other powers like the United States has helped to fuel this political Instability. Foreign countries are believed to finance coups apart from supporting governments that are non-democratic. (Barber)
Haiti’s economy has also bee burdened by the 90 million Francs that it was required to pay by France upon independence of which it agreed in a hurry to gain independence. This amount was claimed by France to cover for the expenses it had incurred in Haiti. The burden of paying this debt was borne by Haitians until 1938. Another problem is how foreign aid had been flowing into this country. The United States has been siphoning many billions into this country without a proper framework to ensure that the money is spent appropriately. This money has ended up in the hands of corrupt government officials and other unscrupulous individuals in a large network of corruption that reaches the U.S. Because governments in Haiti have been against communism, the United States especially during the cold war had been giving billions of dollars to corrupt and dictatorial governments in Haiti. However, at the end of the day these debts need to be paid and without having been invested in enlarging its economy. Haiti has now found itself in a precarious position where it is becoming increasingly overburdened by debts that did not help to improve its economy. This is hindering development in this country since money spent on repaying these debts could be used for development. To further compound the problem of debt, The United States and other western countries sometimes cut aid to this country in an impromptu manner for their own reasons. Although this could be well intended, it has resulted in mass suffering for the Haitian people as the economy shrinks and inflation rises as a result. (Schulle)
Looking at the political system in Haiti, one can conclude that as much as it has changed it is still reminiscent of the colonial economy in terms of dictatorship, instability because of wars among other parameters. The major difference however is that the colonial administration was focused in attaining certain objectives like increasing coffee and sugar production something that is lacking in Haiti governments which have displayed high levels of corruption and ineptitude. The political structure in Haiti today is based on the constitution that was drafted by the United States during their occupation of Haiti. This constitution was modified to create a framework for dictatorship by the country’s first president after the United States occupation-of which he had support. The president had now power to control the legislature and the judiciary. The country entered a series of presidents that held offices for short terms but had similar characteristics-their governments were corrupt and dictatorial. (Corbett)
There was a lot of foreign political interference. The United States for example helped a number of leaders attain power although they ended up plunging the country into more corruption, dictatorship and political instability. Consider Aristide’s case for example. He was reinstated in to the presidency by the United States forces that had entered Haiti in September 9, 1994. He abolished and replaced the army with the U.S. trained Haitian National. Later, together with a leader that he had imposed by the name of Preval violated the Haitian constitution by barring certain people to vote. He later participated in this unfair presidential election to get another term in office. His rule during this time was the worst ever as the economy dwindled sharply, violence increased and there was no respect for the rule of the law. The Gross Domestic Product was now on negative digits. During all this time, he had the support of the U.S. government. The situation got so bad that Aristide resigned and was escorted out of Haiti by the United States army in February 2004. Another case where the Interference of the United States can be seen is concerning a population of Germans that was settling into this country and integrating into the Haitian society. These Germans intermarried with locals and were helping to empower people in the low class. Uncomfortable with German presence in Haiti, the United States planed for their removal. As it had been foreseen by Ouvetre (considered the father of Haiti), it was impossible for the black Haitian society to attain civilization on their own hence he did not plan attacks against whites although the French went ahead to kill him and used crude torture and killings on the black population re-igniting hatred and revenge. It can therefore be seen that political interference from foreign countries like the United States has helped drown Haiti into more political and economic problems. (Corbett)
When Haiti gained Independence, it was something that had not been expected to happen at all especially at that time. France did not therefore make an effort to see that political structures like political parties flourished here at least to prepare this country for independence. Even when it became apparent that there was likelihood for this country to attain self rule, France did not see to it that Haiti had a constitution that would have helped to keep this country in order and peace after they had left. Moreover, the French did not make an effort to help put the structures of a government in place like an army, legislature, and the civil service. Even those who had been carrying out such duties were mainly French nationals who left the country immediately after independence. Part of the reason for this is because in a desperate attempt to hold on to this country, they re-used crude methods of torture and killings. These were retaliated back by the blacks causing the remaining French nationals in the country to escape. In summary, France did not help this country to develop a political system at all, plunging it into political instability after independence. (Corbett)
NAFTA agreement has shown to harm other countries apart from the United States. This includes Haiti. Countries like Haiti have suffered in their farming and in other sectors of their economies. In general, the world is ever becoming globalized economically as economies and markets are integrated. This is achieved in one way through agreements like NAFTA that allow the free movement of goods across the united States border in free trading. This however has turned out to bring more problems than benefits to other countries. When the United States protects its farmers through subsidies for example, production is spiraled in the United States hence farmers in other countries are unable to compete with their counterparts in the United States. (Hill)
As a result, farmers in Haiti and other countries are losing market as the value of farming. With the influx of non-taxed goods to countries like Haiti from the United States, many farmers are losing their jobs and the trade balance is even shifting more in favor of the United States. Because of NAFTA policies, farmers who have lost their jobs are moving into urban areas to live in slums where they are forced to do low wage jobs. Considering that Haiti is mainly a farming economy, NAFTA’s effect on this country is enormous. (Hill)
Haiti has obviously been affected by Mercantilism-this is a theory in economics proposing the idea that the level of prosperity in a country is directly proportional to the amount of capital supplied and that the total volume of international trade in the world is constant. This theory was applied in Europe as countries exploited others to increase their volumes of capital instead of allowing free trade. This explains why in the first place people like Christopher Columbus could go on a voyage to find new lands where their countries could get new resources. This allowed for the colonization of Haiti first by the Spanish and then by the France as they strived to obtain resources that would boost their output in a world with a fixed amount of International trade volume. It then became necessary to obtain slaves to work in this island in order to increase France’s advantage as it took a large share of goods produced in international trade. In short, this theory has brought people as slaves in Haiti and has continued to exploit this country by especially powerful countries. Although Adam smith argued that free trade would benefit the whole world in the end, and although many economies in the world are becoming interdependent and integrated, we are seeing a tendency towards this theory in our world to day. Many countries are becoming nationalistic in trade as they use well-crafted trade agreements like NAFTA, political interference among other methods to exploit poor countries like Haiti. (Hill)
As I had stated before, lending institutions have impacted negatively on Haiti by maintaining a financial burden to this country as it services debts leaving it with no financial resources at all to develop. The situation has become so bad that Haiti is now dependent on foreign aid. Many times, this aid is manipulative without genuinely considering Haitian benefits. At the end of the day, the interest of lending nations is at the fore. Moreover, there are no structures to ensure that money lent is spent in the intended projects. Processing this money, corruption and other factors ensure that more than half of what is given is never used for the good of Haitians. The Haitian government like many other third world country governments is at the threat of losing its sovereignty through financial assistance manipulations and incapacity to raise financial resources for development because of debt repayment. (Schuller)
Generally, all areas in the life of the Haitians have been interfered with because of foreign interference. From having been brought into this land as slave workers, these people’s lives have been determined by foreign forces. Consider that a majority of Haitians are Catholics although about half practice Voodoo. Their French masters passed catholic beliefs to these people. Through their cruelty however, they could not convince these people that their religion was better that what they had been practicing in Africa-voodoo. (Whitman)
Haiti may have been the first Black Country to gain independence but as it can be seen today, the country is still struggling in a world where well-packaged racial and selfish forces are still dominant in a world of neo-colonialism. This coupled with a population that has not transited into desirable government systems that would exhibit political stability has drowned this country into an abyss of massive suffering for its people. Unfortunately, many countries in the world are even becoming more nationalistic as the world is becoming more globalized in all areas. This is seen though agreements like NAFTA which are bringing more suffering to People in the third world apart from lending institutions like the IMF which continue to fleece such countries like Haiti through their interest accumulating but non beneficial debts that should in my opinion be cancelled to economically emancipate such countries.
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